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What a Style Guide is. What a Style Guide is not.
on October 15, 2002
It's disappointing to read all the negative reviews of what I think is a very good book. I think many reviewers lack the understanding of just what constitutes a style guide, so I am going to give my best definition of what a style guide is. Style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, are more concerned with good journalistic practices than graphic design, covering such topics as how to treat page titles, the proper attributing of an author, how to construct footnotes, the importance of dating articles, consistent nomenclature, the consistent use of language, and other important but admittedly dry topics. In almost all cases these things will influence graphic design, and some *very* basic, but in my opinion very good, graphic design information is covered. Also covered, to a fairly high level of detail, is information on graphic format and web color, navigation, and basic usability issues. What this book does not cover, and what one should not expect from a style guide, are examples of cutting-edge design, or information on current design trends (or what many of us think of when we thing of "style"). I think all graphic designers would do well to head the advice in this book, and think that most good graphic designers already do, and are probably already familiar with the information presented here. Obviously designers that know the rules usually break them with better results than those that don't. I think most designers will appreciate this book. If you are looking for an example of really cool, award-winning Websites, try the magazine Communication Arts, especially their Interactive Annual. If you are looking for a great book to introduce you to the basics, I haven't found a better book than this.
To sum up:
"Style" means "cool" to most of us. Try Communication Arts Interactive Annual for exaples of current, award-winning "style".
A "Style Guide" is an explaination of common conventions for a given medium. For an example of a good "Style Guide", get this book.